My Mid-Degree Crisis
Mid-Degree Crisis: noun. The sudden realization that you have absolutely no idea what you want to major in for the next two years of your four year college career.
At least according to Urban Dictionary.
Granted, that isn’t a *real* dictionary website. But there is such a thing as a mid-degree crisis, even if it has no official definition by Oxford. If you Google the term, many student blogs and websites will kindly offer advice on how to deal with this dreadful experience.
First semester of third year was when I experienced my mid-degree crisis.
A lot of factors went into the crescendo of my crisis; I was on unbalanced hormonal birth control pills making me depressed about everything, had a huge family conflict, experienced a rift with my professors due to miscommunications and certain projects, and generally felt isolated from my friends.
Plus the pressure and competition that the acting program breeds. I love my class, don’t get me wrong, but with an overwhelming number of females in comparison to males, the estrogen can get a little too much to handle. Not to mention that we are all competing for the same (and limited number of) roles. Plus the pressure that the rest of the department inflicts, where we constantly feel the need to have a director on our shoulder, we have to be the “best” actors or else we’ll be judged and people will ask why we got into the program at all.
All of these combined hit me like a brick wall, all in one semester. By the end, I was ready to quit the acting program all together. I had meetings with my professors to tell them this news face-to-face, had my courses web-dropped and picked out new ones, told all my friends and family my “final” decision.
But then something extraordinary happened.
I had a Professor speak up for me. A Professor I have always respected since the summer I graduated high school and volunteered for his professional theatre company. This man is a nationally recognized director, actor, and producer. And I volunteered for his company for two years in a row, and he never remembered my name because there were always more important names than that girl who hands out programs politely every show. And three years later, I was there, sitting in his third year acting class. I’ve never asked him if he remembers me volunteering, but at least now he knows my name.
When he learned of my decision to quit the program, he spoke up in front of my class one day. “You have talent,” he said to me after running through my scene, “and if you have a curiosity for acting, I think you should continue with it.”
There is nothing like having a person you’ve respected and admired as an artist for years, speak up and say to you that you shouldn’t give up.
I know to some people this may not seem like a huge deal. But for me, it was the first time any of my teachers have encouraged me to continue acting. For some reason, I’ve felt since first year that all of my professors have given me nothing but criticism. Like I’ve struggled uphill for three years, having my teachers tell me “No, no! You’re doing it all wrong!” Only to reach the top of the hill at the end of my third year, and my teachers saying, “Never mind, you’re fine! Keep doing what you’re doing!”
And that can be frustrating as hell. But finally, FINALLY, someone encouraged me. And it didn’t stop there. More and more teachers were starting to tell me how I should reconsider, and that they were excited to see more of my work next year.
I respect these professors, and their opinions really affected me and my view about leaving. I went back to a birth control pill that regulates my hormones, and felt the depression lift. I began to see the values in working out my conflicts and persevering with the program. I went to chat with my professors, and cleared up all the miscommunications that were actually meant to encourage me. I took the month of December to really consider my options, and in the end decided to stay one more semester, thinking things may get better. And did they ever.
Now, I’ve experienced one of the best semesters of my life. 2013 has been seriously making up in good karma for all the bad karma 2012 threw my way. I’m so happy I stayed in the program; my course work got more interesting and more in depth, I learned so much from my teachers and classmates, my relationships with friends and family improved, and I was cast in the roles of my dreams for next year.
The acting program is no easy task. There’s politics, pressures, competition, jealousy, admiration, sweat, blood, and tears. This year I’ve learned some valuable things, like learning to embrace mistakes and stop caring what other people think of my work. These lessons will serve me in every aspect of my life, moving forward to my future. I would have never learned them, had I not persevered.
One day I hope to tell this Professor (among others) how much his words affected me.